In Laredo, Texas, the border patrol is getting serious about illegal immigration. The longstanding “catch-and-release” policy was scrapped this month, in favor of a zero tolerance program that has clogged jails and strained courts. The Houston Chronicle looked in on a federal courthouse recently, as judges tried and sentenced immigrants 20 at a time to harsh jail stints.
“It doesn't matter if you're trying to pay off funeral expenses, or take care of a sick family member,” a judge told one prisoner. “When you cross the Rio Grande, you’re going to be spending time in prison.” Many applauded the tough stance, but mass trials made civil rights advocates queasy. “We are throwing away the Constitution for expediency,” said one.